Jonathan Majors is having a major moment. And so is his physique. The 33-year-old actor transformed himself via training and dieting for a trio of muscular movie roles: the supervillain Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the boxer “Dame” Anderson, who takes on Creed in Creed III, and the troubled bodybuilder Killian Maddox in the independent feature Magazine Dreams. You’ll be seeing a lot of Jonathan Majors and his muscles in 2023.
During 18 months of training, Majors gained five pounds to play Kang, 10 to play Dame, and six more to play Killian. That’s 21 pounds of muscle in a year-and-a-half and all while shredding bodyfat too, ultimately, to a low of only 5%. While promoting Magazine Dreams, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, Majors spoke about the sets, reps, and chicken breasts that packed on the mass and shed the fat to turn him into, in order of filming: a multiversal supervillain, a champion boxer, and, finally, an obsessed bodybuilder.
JONATHAN MAJORS WORKOUT
“The normal bodybuilder works out two times a day,” Jonathan Majors told Variety. [This is true of bodybuilders preparing for contests: typically one weight-training session and at least one cardio session.] “I’m playing Killian Maddox. Playing him you don’t fuck around. What ended up happening is I would train two hours, two times a day for the movie and a third time after wrap.”
“Training and working out are very important to me. I try to challenge myself to get to a place to express things in the gym the same way I do in my line of work. It’s important to be flexible, open, strong, so it starts here [in the gym],” Majors said before the workout.
Trainer Mark Smith said: “We split our muscle groups. We normally train two muscle groups together. It’s very intense, very productive—”
“Very fun,” Majors interjected.
“It’s very fun, that is true,” Smith continued, “but it’s always beneficial.”
JOHN MAJORS BACK/ABS WORKOUT
Straight-arm Rope Pulldowns — 3 sets x 10 reps
Analysis: Straight-arm pulldowns target the outer lats, serratus (the fingerlike muscles on the sides), and abs together, but don’t involve the biceps like other back exercises. By doing these first, Majors pre-exhausts his lats to better target his back (and not his biceps) with the pulldowns and rows that follow.
Parallel-grip Pullups — 3 sets x 10-12 reps
↕️ Tri-set with
Hanging Leg Raises — 3 sets x 10 reps
↕️ Tri-set with
Hanging Side Knee Raises — 3 sets x 8 reps per side
Analysis: A tri-set is a giant set with three exercises performed one after the other without stopping. Majors goes from pullups for his back right into hanging straight-leg raises (one of the The Barbell‘s highest rated ab exercises), and then into hanging knee raises alternating to the left and right sides to target his obliques. Only then does he rest before doing the next tri-set. This is a unique way of combining back and ab work while hanging out, literally, at the same workout station. To make it even more difficult, Smith encourages Majors to hold his final rep of pullups in the top (fully contracted) position and do each exercise slowly.
One-arm Dumbbell Row — 3 sets x 12 reps
↕️ Superset with
Dumbbell Shrugs — 3 sets x 12 reps
Analysis: This is a superset (two exercises performed without resting in between) of an upper back exercises (one-arm dumbbell row) and a trapezius exercise (dumbbell shrug). Again, Smith encourages Majors to go slow and deliberate with maximum stretches and contractions. “And you see the pace he’s going. That’s so beneficial. He’s not yanking it. He’s not hurrying it. He’s absorbing it. Slow and controlled,” Smith explains as Majors rows.
JONATHAN MAJORS DIET
6100 calories. That number generated a swarm of astonished headlines in January, like this one from GQ: “Jonathan Majors ate 6,100 calories a day to get ridiculously swole for his bodybuilding indie movie.” It is certainly a lot for a sedentary person eating only three meals. The USDA recommends about half that much for a man in Majors’ age category. But it’s not outrageous for a gaining bodybuilder eating six or seven times a day as Majors was for the four months he hit this 6K daily total. Divided into six meals it’s 1017 calories per meal, and divided into seven it’s 871 per meal. We certainly don’t recommend this many calories over a sustained period. After all, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson eats only 4144 calories on a typical day, and he’s several sizes larger than Majors. (See The Rock Diet.) But, for the four-month growth spurt, it worked for Majors and his three daily workouts.
So, what did Majors eat? He told E! Entertainment, he ate “a lot of chicken and rice. A lot of turkey and rice. A lot of bison and rice.” And he told Variety: “Lots of chicken. Lots of elk. That’s just for me. I like it.” So lots of lean proteins—chicken, turkey, bison, elk—to build muscle. And lots of rice—complex carbs to fuel his workouts but not spike his glycogen and get stored as bodyfat. (Sweet potatoes and oatmeal are other good complex carbs.) These standard bodybuilding meals let Majors build muscle but deflect fat. That said, after getting his gains, he likely had to drop the calorie total to ultimately achieve the ripped physique of Magazine Dreams.
JONATHAN MAJORS AB SECRET
When asked the secret to his six-pack abs by E!, Jonathan Majors answered: “Hard work.” Then he put the repetition of his successful fitness quest into a single line of advice: “Eat a lot, pray a lot, sweat a lot, lift a lot, stretch a lot, sleep a lot.”